How many times have you collapsed into bed at night and found yourself too exhausted to sleep? Doesn’t seem to make much sense — you’re feeling so tired, but your body does not seem to want to relax and allow you to fall into the sleep you so desperately need. Your mind is a whirlwind of all the things you wanted to get done that day and didn’t accomplish. Tomorrow’s “to-do list” keeps getting longer with each passing minute.
You are locked into a catch-22. If only you had more energy during the day, you would be more efficient and get more done. But if you cannot sleep at night, how in the world will you have the energy? There are so many reasons why you might be having difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep soundly, but rather than wrack your brain trying to figure it out, try some of these tips and see if the problem resolves itself.
1. Get the number of hours of sleep each night you need to function optimally. Although it varies, most individuals need between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. When sleep-deprived, you are less efficient and focused during the day, and may be leaving yourself open for health risks as well. Research has shown sleep deprivation can affect appetite, weight gain, diabetes risk, the strength of your immune system and even your chance of developing depression. If you have been trying to get by on less sleep, try backing up bedtime by 15 minutes each week, until you are getting the amount of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning.
2. Create a calming atmosphere in your bedroom. If your room is cluttered with work, books that have not been read, papers to attend to, and dirty laundry, it will be a constant reminder of all you need to do. Take 15 minutes each day and begin clearing the clutter and making your room one you will look forward to relaxing in at the end of each day.
3. Make your bed in the morning. A straightened bed is so much more appealing to go to at night then one that is a jumble of sheets and blankets.
4. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex only. This will allow your mind to associate your bed with rest and relaxation only. Watch TV, use your computer, talk on the phone, and eat somewhere else.
5. Create a calming nighttime ritual. Turn off your computer, shut the TV, and do not answer your phone for an hour before you want to go to sleep. Choose activities you find calming. Take a warm bath, read a magazine or novel, have some decaffeinated tea or cookies and milk.
6. Keep your bedroom cool at night. For most individuals, 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit will allow the dip in core body temperature you need to induce sleep.
7. Avoid caffeine in the later afternoon and evening. Caffeinated coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and sugar-laden snacks can all keep you too wired to fall asleep at bedtime.
8. Avoid late night workouts. Exercise is a great sleep aid, but a vigorous workout too late in the day may keep you up at night. However, a leisurely walk after dinner could be just the thing to calm your body and mind.
9. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods in the late evenings. Although a nightcap may help you fall asleep, you will probably experience fragmented sleep, and find yourself wide-awake within a few hours. Steer clear of spicy foods or anything you know causes you heartburn or gastric distress.
10. If an evening party or celebration finds you consuming wine or cocktails, drink plenty of water throughout the evening, and keep a water bottle by your bedside. This way, if you do wake up dehydrated, you will not need to get out of bed.
11. Spend a few minutes creating your “to do list” and preparing for the next day. This will allow your mind to know everything is ready and your morning will be calmer as well.
12. Keep a pad and pen by your bedside. If you wake in the middle of the night, and your mind is racing with thoughts of things you neglected to do, or need to get done, writing them down will release your mind from worrying about forgetting in the morning, allowing you to drift back to sleep.
13. If you have not fallen asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and find a relaxing spot to read. Do not use your technology or watch TV, do anything that requires brain work, or look at a clock. Any of these will stimulate you and increase your anxiety. As soon as you feel sleepy, return to bed.
14. Eliminate or reduce afternoon naps to a maximum of 30 minutes, regardless of how little you slept the night before. Napping too late in the day or for too long can set you up for another sleepless night and a vicious cycle.
15. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day no matter how much sleep you had the night before. The closer you can keep to a routine, the more your body will recognize and respond appropriately to your bedtime and wake up hours. Don’t attempt to make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping in all weekend.
Focus your energy on one tip for an entire week, adding one each week once the previous ones feel like habit. Notice whether or not you are falling asleep easier and sleeping more soundly. If you are still feeling exhausted and sleep deprived, talk to your doctor. Chronic insomnia, sleep apnea (a breathing disorder that causes sleep disturbance) or restless leg syndrome (leg pains that lead to frequent movement while asleep) are all treatable with professional help.
With some small changes in your habits and routines, you will notice big changes in your quality of sleep. As a result, rise and shine will take on a new meaning.